Spoiled brats!

How she’d waited for this!


The original plan had been interrupted, of course. Cassie was supposed to die on the set of Dead Heat, but the bitch had changed the script. Almost as if she’d suspected that an “accident” was going to happen. The ironic part of it was that she’d twisted the script and Allie was to be the second runner, the woman shot.

Not perfect.

But good enough.

But then Allie had bailed and disappeared.

How frustrating.

But the movie wasn’t over.

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There was still the final act.

And in it there would be blood and death and mournful, guilt-riddled cries from those who were lucky enough to survive.

If only for a few tortured seconds . . .


Be calm.

You can do this.

Cassie held the pistol in a death grip. With the wind slapping her face in icy gusts and her ankle shooting pain with each step, she skirted the pooling light from the security lamps and kept to the darker shadows as she headed to the barn. She replayed the horrid sound of the gunshot over and over in her head, then sent up a prayer that Trent was alive. Not injured.

The barn door banged against the exterior wall, the doorway a gaping black maw. For a second she thought of running into it, but stopped herself. Yes, she wanted to get to Trent, the sooner the better, but the open doorway could be a mistake. Whoever was on the other side might be watching.

She clicked off the safety of the pistol and prayed to God she wouldn’t have to use it. But she had to find Trent. Was he alive? Injured? Or . . . Stop! Don’t even go there. He’s alive. Maybe hurt, but alive. So help him, Cassie. But be smart about it.

Fear chasing through her bloodstream, she slipped through a gate near one side of the barn. She edged around to the back of the massive building, where she hugged the exterior wall. The wind wasn’t as sharp here, as she was protected by the barn but the ground was a sodden, trampled mess with deep pockets of mud, rainwater, and manure created by hundreds of hooves. Picking her way as carefully as possible, all the while worrying about the seconds ticking by, she passed through the wide doorway used by the cattle as they entered and her boots slid and caught in the uneven glop. Inside the enormous, cavernous room that, thankfully tonight, was empty of animals, she moved more easily through the darkness. Straw and sawdust had been spread over a concrete slab and the muck wasn’t as deep. Here, where the smell of animals lingered, the footing was a little firmer, thank God.

Hurry, hurry, hurry!

Where would he be within this massive, creaking building?

Focus, Cassie. Find Trent. That’s all you need to do. And try not to get shot while you’re doing it.

Rather than risk exposure by darting across the open space, she started easing around the edge of the wide enclosure. Her ankle was beginning to throb now, but she ignored it, couldn’t be bothered.

Where was he?

Where was whoever or whatever he’d encountered? She expected the attack had been human, she didn’t think Trent had fired his rifle, but she didn’t know.

God help me.

Her phone vibrated and she pulled it from her pocket.

She saw Trent’s text and nearly collapsed in relief.

He was alive! That was the good news. The bad? He was warning her, telling her to get to safety and he wasn’t calling or leaving the barn. He’d said he was okay, but she doubted it as he was still in the dark barn. Somewhere. Hiding? Hoping to get the jump on whatever enemy he faced? Or injured?

She looked at his message a last time and decided to ignore it, only typing in Where are you? before pocketing her phone and moving again. She ran the fingers of her left hand along the rough boards of the wall as she stepped steadily toward the main area of the barn, the space accessed by the door Trent had used on the opposite side of the building. At the inside corner of the room, she felt the edge of a manger butt up against the wall. Carefully, she followed the feed trough’s length, stopping at a spot where she could see a dim light filtering through one of the windows high overhead, just enough illumination that she could quietly find her way into the heart of the barn.

Hurry, hurry, hurry! Time’s running out. What if Trent is even now dying somewhere in the barn? God, where the hell are the police? Where’s Carter?

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